Bhairava is the ferocious form of Lord Shiva, the supreme God of destruction. He has the power to obliterate evil, destroy adverse energies and spread positivity around. There are as many as 64 Bhairavas, who are said to be guarding the cardinal points and controlling the different directions. Kala Bhairava is the chief of the Bhairavas and is regarded as the supreme ruler of universal time. The dog is Bhairava’s mount.
Of the 64 Bhairavas, eight are of special significance and are considered as very important manifestations of Shiva. These prominent forms are together known as Ashta Bhairavas, the eight-Bhairava aspects. They are said to rule over the 8 directions. Ruru Bhairava is regarded the second among the Ashta Bhairavas.
Legend of Bhairava
There are interesting legends about the origin of Bhairava. The Shiva Purana narrates one among them.
Once, there arose a debate between the Lords Brahma and Vishnu, as to who is bigger of the two. When the matter went to Shiva, he simply stood between them as a massive beam of light that travelled beyond the three worlds. He then declared that whoever finds the ends of that unending flame, will be considered supreme. Vishnu took the form of a wild boar and went searching down, for finding the bottom end, but he did not succeed. Brahma went up in the form of a swan to find the upper end and he too could not reach anywhere near the top. However, while Vishnu returned conceding his inability, Brahma boasted that he did reach the upper end of the column of light. In order to prove his claim, he also produced the Ketaki flower, which was actually falling down from the top when Brahma was flying upwards. Shiva then emerged out of that infinite light, declared that Brahma’s was not a true claim and demonstrated that Brahma’s assertion was false. He then created the ferocious Bhairava from his fiery third eye, and he plucked out Brahma’s fifth head, which actually made the false claim. Thus chastised, Brahma repented for his mistake and bowed to Shiva as atonement for his illusion and wrongdoing.
Thus, the advent of Bhairava happened to challenge and destroy falsehood and uphold virtue.
It is also said that the separated skull of Brahma got stuck to Bhairava’s hands inextricably and he had to move around from place to place, trying to get rid of the severed head from his hand. As he went about seeking alms in the skull stuck to his hand, so that it could become full and fall off his hands on its own, the Bhairava Shiva came to be known as Bhikshadana, the mendicant. It was Lord Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi who gave him food at last, which could fill the skull and immediately, it fell off his hands and Bhairava got relieved of the affliction. It is for this reason that Bhairava is also regarded as a wandering form of Shiva.
Ashta Bhairava – The Features
Ashta Bhairava, the 8 famous forms of Bhiarava remain as the widely worshipped Bhairava aspects of Lord Shiva. Though they are normally taken together for many rituals and worships, they are unique Godly beings with distinct characteristics of their own. They are said to represent the 5 fundamental elements of air, water, fire, earth and space, and also the Sun, the Moon and Atma, the soul. These 8 Gods are known in the names — Asitanga Bhairava, Ruru Bhairava, Chanda Bhairava, Krotha Bhairava, Unmatha Bhairava, Kapaala Bhairava, Bheeshana Bhairava and Samhara Bhairava.
Ruru Bhairava is the second among the Ashta Bhairavas. He is depicted as fair-complexioned, is in a standing posture and is decorated with many ornaments, made predominantly of rubies. In his 4 arms, he holds things like rosary, book, veena, the musical instrument and an elephant goad. There are also images that show him as holding the axe and the stag, just like Shiva. His mount is Rishaba, the Ox, while he is facing south-east. Goddess Maheshwari is his divine consort.
Ruru Bhairava is regarded a divine teacher or a preceptor. It is believed that his grace can make people strong and influential, so that they can overcome enemies and hold sway over others.
Rathnagiriswarar temple at Thirumarugal in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu is dedicated to Ruru Bhairava, where people can offer prayers and seek his blessings.